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‘Outdoor’ Cats

Allowing cats to roam outdoors unattended is just as dangerous and unwise as allowing a toddler to wander down the street alone.

Cats face countless dangers outdoors: They can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals, or abused by cruel people. They can contract contagious diseases or parasites. They can be poisoned by spilled antifreeze or maimed by fan blades when they crawl into warm vehicle engines on winter days. They can even be stolen by dogfighters who use them as “bait” or by “bunchers” who cruise neighborhoods for friendly dogs and cats who can easily be picked up and sold to dealers, who in turn sell them to laboratories for use in painful experiments.

What’s more, free-roaming cats defecate in gardens and sandboxes and eat plants on other people’s property. Angry, exasperated neighbors frequently take matters into their own hands. PETA’s office routinely gets calls from people whose cats have been stolen, shot, poisoned, or tortured to death. Such crimes are rarely pursued by law enforcement, as perpetrators know to commit them when no one is watching, leaving insufficient evidence for prosecution.

Many people have learned the hard way never to let their cats out unaccompanied. In Pompano, Florida, lost dogs and cats were found in a large storage warehouse used by dogfighting “trainers.” In South Dakota, a fur trader was caught selling cat skins. In Washington, D.C., a cat let out for her daily stroll returned covered with burns from hot cooking grease. In California, a woman searching for her cats found that both had been shot with arrows. The list goes on and on.

Cats who are allowed outdoors are also a threat to wildlife. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that free-roaming cats kill millions of birds and small mammals in the U.S. every year, including endangered species such as the least tern and the piping plover.

Cats are not native wildlife and do not fit into the predator-prey ecosystem. Their hunting instincts exist no matter how well fed they are. They terrorize, maim, and kill countless native birds and other small wild animals, who are struggling to survive existing challenges (such as development in their habitats) and aren’t equipped to deal with such predators. These small animals die from repeated puncture wounds and from being crushed by cats’ jaws. Unfortunately, many cats spend a great deal of time playing with their dying, convulsing prey, whose suffering is intense. Many of these animals are then left to die slowly when they stop struggling but remain alive.

Today’s concrete jungles are far too dangerous for vulnerable, trusting animals—feline or otherwise. Please keep cats safe indoors.